Naomi Watts co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer and Josh Lucas, among others, in Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar. While much of the buzz surrounding J. Edgar is related to just how much Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black delve into Hoover’s alleged sexual relationship with his second in command Clyde Tolson (Hammer), Watt’s Helen Gandy offers plenty of intrigue of her own.
Helen Gandy was J. Edgar Hoover’s pitbull of an assistant for more than 50 years, from the time Hoover became the second in command of the Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of the FBI, to the day Hoover died, May 1st 1972. J. Edgar doesn’t quite cover the breadth of that relationship, pausing as it does late in Hoover’s career but before his death.
The most intriguing aspect of Helen Gandy is the fact that she is being played by Naomi Watts. Historians do not recall Gandy as a beauty, in fact her Wikipedia entry describes her as a ‘wraith-like, grim-faced spinster.’ Indiewire in assessing the first photo of Watts in J. Edgar described her as ‘dowdy’ and ‘frumpy.’ Dowdy is likely as close as Naomi Watts could ever come to ‘wraith-like.’
So, what message is Clint Eastwood sending by casting a beauty like Naomi Watts in the role of Helen Gandy? Is the intent merely to glam up the role? Is the casting meant to underscore Hoover’s homosexuality by showing him not being attracted to Gandy? Certainly Eastwood could have cast a less attractive actress in the role and removed any potential for sexual tension.
The casting of Naomi Watts definitely raises a number of intriguing questions about J. Edgar. Among those questions: Can Naomi Watts achieve the Oscar buzz that currently surrounds co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer? Watts is no stranger to Hollywood’s biggest night having been nominated for Best Actress for 2004’s 21 Grams. Will she find success at the Academy Awards again for this role?
J. Edgar opens nationwide on Friday, November 11th.